Westview Writers' Festival to Feature Award-Winning Novelist and Writing Contest


Howard BahrArea residents who are interested in the world of steam locomotives or love an exciting story with compelling characters or are a fan of historically accurate fiction will want to attend the upcoming Westview Writers' Festival this Tuesday, March 31, at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.

Novelist Howard Bahr will read from his recent novel Pelican Road and from one of his acclaimed Civil War novels at the festival that starts at 7 p.m. in the SWOSU Conference Center, located the corner of Davis and Seventh Streets on the SWOSU campus. Admission is free.

Bahr has published four novels and one children's book. With Bahr, a former train brakeman and yard clerk, in Pelican Road the audience climbs aboard the Silver Star in New Orleans and makes its way north up the Pelican Road to Meridian, Mississippi. Enroute from Meridian to New Orleans is southbound freight 4512. With realistic detail, Bahr not only weaves a remarkably powerful story of the railroad men who operate steam-powered trains, but he leads the audience to reflect on the larger issues of time's passing and the interconnectedness of lives.

His Civil War novels The Black Flower, The Year of Jubilo, and The Judas Field address specifics of the Civil War experience while capturing universal human problems and values.

 The Denver Post calls Bahr "a rare talent" and the Christian Science Monitor calls him "A writer of uncommonly beautiful phrases and compelling characters." The New York Times Book Review says, "Howard Bahr is a true poet of weather, of night, and of time. . . ."  

Following Bahr's reading, there will be an open reading with cash prizes for the three prose works judged to be of the highest overall quality. The top prize will be $100, and two honorable mention prizes of $25 will also be awarded. The reading will be open to students, members of the community and faculty (other than Language and Literature faculty).

The New York Times Review of Books said about Bahr's The Year of Jubilo, "Not since James Agee has someone made the Southern night so alive, so intimate, so orchestral."  Echoing this high praise, the theme of the reading will be "The Southern Night" (which, of course, includes the Oklahoma night), but what individual readers do with that theme is up to them.  Judges will be looking first to see that the theme is addressed, and after that, the winners will be determined by the overall quality of the work, which can be either fiction or nonfiction prose.

Works for the reading are limited to a maximum of 300 words. The contest will be limited to 25 entrants on a first-come, first-serve basis. To ensure a spot or for further questions about the event, contact Kevin Collins at kevin.collins@swosu.edu or Jill Jones at 580.774.3734.  Writers should feel free to bring their short essays or stories and take their chances without reserving a spot.